2021 Southern Arizona High School Football Preview: Catalina

Catalina High School’s football program has not had a winning season since 2007. The Trojans are 30-90 since that season. (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

2A Rillito: Catalina

2020 record: Season was canceled due to COVID-19 and lack of turnout among players.

Head coach: Greg McKinstry, first year of head coaching experience after moving from Sioux Falls (S.D.), where he was an assistant coach at O’Gorman High School since 2016. McKinstry moved to Tucson because of family in the Phoenix area and his wife’s family lives in Tucson. He is taking over a program that has not had a winning season since 2007 under Shawn Wasson. He replaces Chris Barlow, who coached the Trojans the last three years. He is the Trojans’ fifth head coach in the last 10 years. McKinstry’s coaching background includes being the co-offensive coordinator at O’Gorman, which was 33-12 in his four seasons there (the team did not play in 2020 because of COVID-19). A former defensive back at Ohio University and Northern Iowa, McKinstry also served as an assistant at Northern Iowa from 2009-12. His high school coaching stops include Waterloo, Iowa, and Milwaukee. In the last three years, he has worked as a behavioral specialist at a middle school in Sioux Falls. He is carrying on that same role at Catalina High School.

Key returners:

  • ATH Kyler Manning, 5-11, 200, Sr.
  • OT/DT Aidan Bupp, 6-2, 250, Sr.
  • QB/DE Connor Murphy, 6-0, 185, Sr.
  • ATH Angel Garcia, 5-11, 175, Sr.
Kyler Manning has preserved through his Catalina career to make it to his senior season with the Trojans (Javier Morales/AllSportsTuscon.com)

Coaching staff:

  • Head coach/offensive coordinator: Greg McKinstry
  • Assistant: Tim Bridges

Notes: McKinstry is relying on the help of Bridges to coach the team. Bridges is also Catalina’s athletic director. McKinstry said he is looking for assistants who want to remain long-term with the program to build consistency. … McKinstry and Bridges had to generate interest within Catalina’s student body to get the roster total to 29, of whom many have not played football before. He mentioned 75 percent of the players are freshmen and sophomores. “Changing the culture does not happen overnight; it’s a process,” McKinstry said. “Once we get through the process, I can let these kids know, ‘Hey, I’m all in. I need to make you guys all in with me. We’re going to make this change the right way.” … Manning is among a handful of seniors who have returned from two seasons ago, never giving up the sport or losing the desire to play at Catalina. When asked he has stuck it out, he answered, “My love for the sport. I have played since I was 4. I want to play college so, it’s just, I had to.” … The Trojans will play a game Friday (at Bisbee) for the first time since losing at Pusch Ridge on Nov. 1, 2019 — a span of 665 days. “I’m not really expecting it to be pretty at first,” said Manning, who has taken on a player-coach role with the team as a captain. “I just want the new guys to get a feel for the game. I want the guys to understand it’s not as easy as practice. It’s a whole different intensity. They just need to be able to learn. Hopefully within the first quarter they can pick up that new speed.”

Two days before its opener, Catalina was unable to practice with pads on Wednesday because of an excessive heat warning (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)




ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District

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